Losing It In which an Aging Professor laments his shrinking Brain... William Ian Miller

Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
29 Aug 2012
ISBN:
9780300188233
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
336 pages: 210 x 140mm
Illustrations:
4 b-w illus.

In Losing It, William Ian Miller brings his inimitable wit and learning to the subject of growing old: too old to matter, of either rightly losing your confidence or wrongly maintaining it, culpably refusing to face the fact that you are losing it. The “it” in Miller’s “losing it” refers mainly to mental faculties—memory, processing speed, sensory acuity, the capacity to focus. But it includes other evidence as well—sags and flaccidities, aches and pains, failing joints and organs. What are we to make of these tell-tale signs? Does growing old gracefully mean more than simply refusing unseemly cosmetic surgeries? How do we face decline and the final drawing of the blinds? Will we know if and when we have lingered too long?

Drawing on a lifetime of deep study and anxious observation, Miller enlists the wisdom of the ancients to confront these vexed questions head on. Debunking the glossy new image of old age that has accompanied the graying of the Baby Boomers, he conjures a lost world of aging rituals—complaints, taking to bed, resentments of one’s heirs, schemes for taking it with you or settling up accounts and scores—to remind us of the ongoing dilemmas of old age. Darkly intelligent and sublimely written, this exhilarating and eccentric book will raise the spirits of readers, young and old.

William Ian Miller is Thomas G. Long Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

"[Miller's] vigorous pessimism is strangely liberating. . . At times Miller's determined miserabilism gets it so right that all one can do is sit back, revel in the shock of recognition, and laugh aloud."—Laurie Taylor, Times Higher Education Supplement


"The cumulative effect of such a tour of aging ought to be depressing, but it's actually bracing. Trying to keep up with the sheer breadth of knowledge in Losing It and actually reading all the wonderful books Miller weaves into this strange, dark, intellectual kilim will keep you constructively engaged while you wait for science to throw up a wild card that might just delay, or even cancel, your own miserable end."—Liz Else, New Scientist CultureLab blog


“…. [A] wonderful new book….beautifully nuanced.”—Laurie Taylor, Times Higher Education


“Trying to keep up with the sheer breadth of knowledge in Losing It and actually reading all the wonderful books Miller weaves into this strange, dark, intellectual kilim will keep you constructively engaged while you wait for science to throw up a wild card that might just delay, or even cancel, your own miserable end.”—Liz Else, New Scientist


“This is a very good book, witty, graceful and erudite, about a subject of more or less pressing concern to all.”—William Palmer, The Oldie


“…..a full-throttle performance in which the Middle Ages are a solace for middle age. He embraces revenge, humiliation, etymology, the Gettysburg Address….It’s not for me to spoil the story. Seek it out.”—Christopher Hawtree, The Independent


“As highly literate societies age, it is not surprising that increasing numbers of ageing people choose to write about their experiences. Not all of them are as knowledgeable, entertaining, or so full of complaint, as William Ian Miller…..a witty book, all the sharper, more perceptive and more cheering about the realities of ageing for its complaints.”—Pat Thane, Times Literary Supplement


“…..a very good book indeed.”—John Sutherland, Literary Review


"A stylish, effortlessly erudite and refreshingly clear-eyed essay about the dastardly — yet inevitable — fate of getting older."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune, Best Books 2011


"Miller takes target at the inevitable aging process, and finds much more humor than might be expected . . . Readers may turn to the book for contemplation or a much-needed laugh as they themselves continue the unavoidable journey."—Publishers Weekly


"Blackly funny and wonderfully thought-provoking. . . A raging screed directed less against the dying of the light than against any denial that the lamps—his, mine, yours—are indeed dimming all the time.”—Brian Bethune, Maclean's


"[Miller] is a prankster, a tease, an imp of the perverse, a digressor-transgressor. . .The claim could be made that not since Laurence Sterne's great 18th-century joke of a novel, Tristram Shandy, has any book been so well-founded on the slippery rock of digression."—Henry Allen, Wall Street Journal


“Beautifully written, original, deeply insightful, often laugh-out-loud witty, and on not a few occasions (despite the author's curmudgeonly persona) a moving and affecting book.”—Andrew Stark, Professor of Strategic Management, the University of Toronto


"Nobody lives history like Bill Miller. The rest of us may enjoy reading about the Middle Ages. Miller suffers through them, and in reporting on his experiences, he gives us autobiography that ranks with the greats."—James Whitman, Yale Law School


"[Miller] is witty and intimidatingly well-read . . . His shtick is so marvelously entertaining that you're willing to listen to what is—by his own admission—a grumpy diatribe over all that's lost by the relentless ticktock."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune


"Miller takes target at the inevitable aging process, and finds much more humor than might be expected . . . His leisurely pace and straight talk brings topics that are not always openly discussed into the realm of everyday conversation . . . Readers may turn to the book for contemplation or a much-needed laugh as they themselves continue the unavoidable journey."—Publishers Weekly


"Miller can grouse and chide with the best, but not all is grim modern comedy. With equal facility, he brings a seriously learned and entertaining hand to the project of growing old in earlier times. . . Everywhere here is the twinkle in Miller's eye. He is having a high and fine old time, and so are we. Old age has become a rueful burlesque, and Miller gives it a mordant poke with a sharpened stick, but he also makes us laugh."—Peter Lewis, Barnes and Noble Review


"The real point of Losing It is that it gives Mr. Miller an opportunity to play one joke after another on the reader, who can elect to be in on the joke or, possibly, throw the book across the room... On any given page you may find Mr. Miller taking you through Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, Slavic word roots, television's The Wire and of course his beloved Icelandic sagas."—Henry Allen, Wall Street Journal


“Miller has written an extravaganza of a book that could only have been produced by a remarkably adroit mind functioning at the very topmost top of its form. If he has lost nearly as much cortical circuitry as he asserts, there is no evidence of it here….Even as he is claiming the onrush of debility, the graceful sound of his prose and its sly, wry insights betray him with an abundance of wit, wisdom, and erudition. I suspect that he wants it both ways: 'See how I’m losing it, but see also how brilliant I continue to be.' Well, he most emphatically cannot have it both ways, so he’d better settle on the brilliant." —Sherwin Nuland, The New Republic.